What Do Party Finances Say About Enthusiasm?

Mike Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports today on the respective financial reports filed by the Republican and Democratic Parties of Arkansas. To the surprise of no one, Arkansas Democrats outraised the GOP in the first six months of the year.

What is perhaps surprising is that while the Dems report more dollars raised ($409,244), the Arkansas GOP is not lagging quite as badly as might be suspected ($354,493). Am I alone in thinking that the Democrats (who more or less control the board in Arkansas with all the statewide constitutional offices, massive legislative majorities and five of six Congressional seats) should be posting a more commanding lead?

My first thought was that both totals seemed relatively anemic, given that 2008 is a presidential election year. So I looked back at the reports from the last two election cycles to see if there might be any patterns.

Here are the GOP totals as reported on FEC reports in the last three election cycles:

July 2004: $244,380

July 2006: $435,607

July 2008: $354,493

The state GOP total spiked in 2006 and has dropped off in 2008 — but not too dramatically. It’s about an 18 percent drop, and, given the tremendous structural disadvantages Arkansas Republicans face, strikes me as a reasonably respectable number.

Now let’s take a look at the Democratic side. Again, these are year-to-date numbers as reported to the FEC in July of each year:

July 2004: $538,443

July 2006: $959,369

July 2008: $409,224

The Dems also enjoyed a nice spike in 2006—actually, strike that, a damned impressive spike—but this year’s total is significantly lower.

I am told by Democratic sources that enthusiasm among party regulars in Arkansas this year is at a low ebb, particularly with Hillary Clinton’s exit from the campaign. (Recall Democratic Rep. Marion Berry’s admission that his enthusiasm had been “drained to the bottom of the tank” just a few weeks ago). This significant fund-raising drop may be one symptom of that lack of enthusiasm. (And to be clear, it’s a bipartisan affliction in this election year—I’ve attended my share of GOP meetings and events in the last year that were under-attended, low energy affairs).

But there are almost certainly other factors that feed into these totals. I invite your theories and speculations below.

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